Viral hepatitis

What is viral hepatitis?

Viral hepatitis is a virus that affects the liver, and include hepatitis A, B, C, D and E. Hepatitis A, B and C are most common in Australia.

What are the symptoms of hepatitis?

Not everyone with hepatitis will have symptoms. When they do occur, they may include:

  • fever,
  • nausea,
  • abdominal pain or discomfort,
  • loss of appetite,
  • dark urine,
  • painful joints,
  • fatigue,
  • swelling (oedema), and
  • jaundice (yellow skin and eyes).

What causes hepatitis?

Hepatitis A and E generally spread through contact with contaminated food or water. Hepatitis B and D spread through contact with an infected person’s blood or other bodily fluids, and hepatitis C with blood only.

Hepatitis A and B can be avoided through vaccination.

What treatment options are available?

The treatment will depend on the type of hepatitis you have.

Hepatitis A

No specific treatment is needed. Alcohol and medication should be avoided while the liver is recovering.

Hepatitis B

Treatment may not be required, however it is important to monitor the liver regularly to detect any changes. If treatment is required, antiviral drugs may be used.

Hepatitis C

Combination therapy is suggested for hepatitis C, which can lead to eradication (cure). This may include two or three of: pegylated interferon injections (a signaling protein), ribavirin (an antiviral medication) and an antiviral protease inhibitor (such as Boceprevir or Telaprevir).

Hepatitis D

Hepatitis D can be acute (short term) or chronic (long term). Acute infections will often resolve themselves without treatment. Chronic hepatitis D may respond to peg interferon (a signaling protein).

Hepatitis E

As hepatitis E is often an acute infection, meaning it is short-term, the body will often fight off the infection without any help.


Over time, chronic hepatitis (caused by either hepatitis B or C) can cause cirrhosis and cancer of the liver.

Find out more about viral hepatitis

To find out more about viral hepatitis talk to one of our hepatologists today.